A Kind of Spark
(Elle McNicoll, 2020, London, Knights Of)
In my humble opinion, it’s not very often a book lives up to its hype. I’d been looking forward to reading A Kind of Spark since March (I actually read it ages ago but it’s taken me a long time to finalise this review because of my fear of not doing it justice! And the original review is very long and very passionate, shall we say?), when a tweet including ‘young Scottish girl’ and ‘witch trials’ grabbed my bored eyeballs (March 2020, eh?). I started following Elle McNicoll on Twitter, and when I discovered she was a neurodivergent author and A Kind of Spark was about a young autistic girl I was even more intrigued.
Spark’s heroine Addie is a wonderful and beautiful creation: a child full of wonder, passion and compassion. She loves sharks, writing stories and researching things she’s interested in (check, check, check), and when the subject of witches comes up for the school Halloween project, Addie is gripped. But far from being spellbound by the ‘wicked old woman’, ‘hubble-bubble’ nonsense we get bombarded with every Halloween, it’s the mistreatment and murder of so-called witches that grabs and hurts our young Addie. They were ‘like me’, she says; women taunted and treated with disdain and fear for being different, for talking to themselves, for not being able to function in a world not designed for them. Addie’s teacher (a real villain for our young people, seriously) laughs when a pupil ‘jokes’ that Addie would have been burned at the stake if she’d been alive at the time of the witch trials.
Addie decides to campaign for her village to recognise and commemorate the women tortured and murdered by their ancestors, a ballsy rallying cry for our differences to be acknowledged and accepted.
Addie is trying to make sense of things but is thwarted by insensitive and blindly stupid behaviour from too many people around her. But Addie’s sister Keedie, who is also autistic, assures her that her autism is a gift: ‘Other people’s minds are small. Your mind is enormous. You don’t want to be like other people’. It’s no wonder this quote made it to the book cover as it completely captures the beauty of neurodivergence.
A Kind of Spark is a vital addition to your bookshelf! I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s beautiful, excellently written and inspiring. I’d love to give hero Addie a big hug – but only if that’s ok with her.